I have never been photogenic. For those who might argue, I offer my kindergarten picture.
Luckily, I figured this out quite young, and I’ve become adept at avoiding cameras. My plan was to be one of those reclusive authors who lives in a cabin in the woods and has her manuscripts delivered to the publisher by secret courier.
Alas, the publishing gods have told me this is not an option in the internet age. Your author photo is an essential part of your marketing plan. You want industry professionals to recognize you. Readers want to interact with a person, not a book cover.
In order to get the dreaded author photo, I had to study what others did naturally. I spent hours looking at pictures and reading photographers' advice.
Here are the most oft-repeated tips along with a few things I learned from my own photo shoot:
Ask for Help: You might not be photogenic, but chances are you know someone who is. If coordinating hair, make-up, and photographer seems like a Herculean task, get some help. Think of the friend who always wants to drag you along for a make-over, or that annoying cousin who tortures you with the camera at family gatherings. Chances are they’ll know where to go for the best pictures, and they’ll be happy to give you advice. (I would never have made it through my first photo shoot without help from my good friend, Peggy Staggs. Thank you, Peggy!)
Set the Tone: Your author photo should hint at what genre you write. Typically, a serious literary work will have a more formal shot, while a romantic comedy can take advantage of a quirky location and unusual colors.
One idea is to match the themes and colors in your author photo with the themes and colors of your website or novels. Before you go this route, consider all the situations where you might need to use this photo. You want something that will work for everything you publish.
Avoid the Clichés: The thinker pose, the author with her cat, the author “surprised” at her desk. All of these are clichés I’ve seen mocked on the internet. It’s probably best to avoid them. You wouldn’t want anyone to think your writing was clichéd. Don’t give that impression with your photo.
Keep Your Hands off Your Head: Typically, authors pose this way either to look thoughtful or to hide a double chin. Whatever the reason, the resulting photo rarely looks natural. If you have features you’d like to disguise, it’s best to discuss them outright with the photographer at the start of the shoot. A professional will know how to minimize any flaws and show you at your best.
Try to Look Comfortable: Nothing is worse than a photo where the subject is visibly cringing, scowling at the camera, or looking to escape. Relax and imagine you’re having a great time. You don’t have to smile, but the best photos are those where the subject looks like he wants to be there. The easiest way to do this? Bring along that friend, the one who always makes you laugh, and the torture will be over before you know it.
No photographer can take a middle-aged woman and make her look like she did in college. But hopefully with these tips will help you obtain a photo which serves all your professional needs.
I would love to hear advice from our readers. What tips do you have on taking a great author photo?